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Group Of Central American Migrants In Mexico Aim For The U.S. Border


Over a thousand Central American migrants have been making their way through Mexico, many of them headed toward the U.S. border. President Trump has criticized the Mexican government for not trying to stop the caravan, though the government says it is planning to review the immigration status of members of the group. With us now from Mexico, Reuters correspondent Delphine Schrank, who's been spending time with members of the caravan.

Delphine, thanks so much for being with us.

DELPHINE SCHRANK: Thanks so much for having me.

MARTIN: Who are these people? Where are they from, and what are they trying to do?

SCHRANK: So as you said, this is over a thousand migrants - men, women, a lot of children - from El Salvador, Guatemala and, this year, many from Honduras. This is not the first year that there have been caravans like this, which means a sort of group - a huge group of migrants gathering together to cross the perilous journey north through Mexico in which migrants are usually extorted, robbed, assaulted.

MARTIN: So they do this in big groups for safety - for safety reasons.

SCHRANK: They do this in big groups, exactly. And this year, they've gathered together through the auspices of a transnational organization that's coordinating them. But they're all here for individual reasons. And it seems to be the largest group that anyone has seen in years. And these groups have been happening for about seven years.

MARTIN: Are they all - Delphine, are they all trying to get to the U.S.? Do some want to stay in Mexico?

SCHRANK: The majority that I have spoken with seem to want to get to the U.S. A lot of them will be probably seeking asylum. Many don't necessarily want to make it over the border. They might fritter away to meet relatives, to work in Mexico. Their intention is really to get away from their own countries and to get away from the conditions of their lives.

MARTIN: Do they know how difficult it might be to attain asylum in the United States? I mean, President Trump just the other day said he wants to strengthen the asylum laws to make it tougher to get that status.

SCHRANK: A lot of them are aware of how the Northern frontier is pretty difficult to get over at the moment. And they have various ideas about that. But the reality is, as I've heard from many of them, the conditions at home made it so difficult for economic reasons, for political reasons. Many of them are facing - or they say they're facing death threats or they have - they are at risk to their lives. Political conditions are so bad, they felt that the necessity to leave outweighed the difficulties that they would face if they were to cross the U.S. border.

MARTIN: And now Mexico's saying it's going to review the immigration status of all these folks. I wonder, as you have been spending time with them, moving from at least one city to another, is there a particular story that stands out to you?

SCHRANK: Oh, there are so many. I would say one that is pretty shocking to me is that I have met a congresswoman on the run. So this is a woman who was a member of the Honduran Congress until January, had served out her four-year term, was not a member of the ruling party of a president who was re-elected in a highly contested election in November, which the U.S. formally recognized but led to a lot of street protests and a severe crackdown on protesters. She was not paid by the ruling party for 18 months, and spiraled into severe debt, and since then has found herself in this situation of needing to flee and finding herself in this massive group of migrants.

She's one, but there are so many others, and they have so many individual stories - people who have lost brothers in drug gangs and want to save other members of their family and get away, a young man who had four packets of cigarettes in the morning when I met him. By the afternoon, he'd turned them into a massive little mobile market and wants to become a bit of an entrepreneur in the United States but has no chance of that.

MARTIN: People trying to do anything they can to get north or to get to a better life.

SCHRANK: Exactly.

MARTIN: Delphine Schrank, chief Mexico correspondent for Reuters, thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.